Luke Pappaspanos, Contributing Writer

All people today can live as citizens of Pompeii and experience firsthand the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. History majors and students who study cultures or anthropology know details about the city of Pompeii. In 79 A.D. the earth violently shook when Mt. Vesuvius, a volcano, exploded in Italy. The Roman culture was alive and well until the town was buried under lava, ash and pumice. The St. Louis Science Center has this startling historical moment featured until November. There is still plenty of time to experience this paid admission exhibit.  

Discover the sophistication of the culture and lifestyle of the Roman people in 79 A.D. Italy. View the incredible structures made without using modern machinery. Learn how rainwater was collected and contained inside homes for household use. Check out elaborate wall hangings and even a painting of Cupid. Examine the intricate details of the stone statues and busts. Experience Roman daily life in the brothels, theaters, restaurants, and learn how foods were prepared. See earrings and bracelets, pots, jugs, and various other artifacts used by the Romans. Discover the amazing coins, weapons, containers for perfumed oils, pottery pieces, and many stones from the Precambrian era.  

A question to consider is why did these people choose to stay in the area before the devastation hit Pompeii and the town of Herculaneum?  “For several days before the eruption the Earth had been shaken but this fact did not cause fear because it was a commonly observed feature in Campania,” stated Pliny the Younger, eyewitness to Vesuvius eruption.  

As a citizen of Pompeii, come face to face with volcanic smoke and experience the earth shaking. Visualize the running, screaming people blasted with flaming volcanic rocks, debris, heat and fiery ash. Witness the devastation which overcame an unsuspecting population and town. Observe, touch and understand how lava and ash became the cast that forever captured the terror of the victims. Nothing in the area was excluded from the flying debris, intense heat, and liquid rock; buildings were covered in ash or leveled to the ground. People unable to escape the clutches of this horrible moment were the target of the volcano’s wrath. Animals, babies, the elderly, young, poor, restaurant owners, even the rich; all were covered in ash and lava. The day became night, due to the smoke and gasses which blocked out sunlight and added to the horrific hours of nature erupting.  

At the end of the exhibit, souvenirs can be purchased, such as hats, shirts, mini volcanoes, the official exhibition guidebook, coffee cups or jewelry to remember your visit to the town of Pompeii.  

The St. Louis Science Center unveiled the day Pompeii was changed forever. Mount Vesuvius exploded and spread death and destruction over the land and froze forever an entire town. There are other attractions at the Science Center to examine and experience. Check out the space flight simulator, the life science lab, the virtual reality transporter, the discovery room, the Omnimax theatre, or the McDonnell planetarium shows. Spend the whole day at the St. Louis Science Center and enjoy hands-on activities. After a full day of learning about science and history take a break and have a snack. There are several places to grab a cup of coffee, soda, a slice of pizza or a sandwich.  

Mount Vesuvius has erupted several times and the last recorded explosion was in 1944. Could it be time for the volcano to spew out gas, smoke, rocks, and magma once again? The Pompeii exhibit may have unlocked the door to that inner scientist, historian or archaeologist. Consider adding history or science classes to your schedule next semester here at the University of Missouri–St Louis to keep those growing interests alive.